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The present study examines the history and veracity of the photographic evidence for unidentified aerial phenomena by assessing the images themselves. In doing so we opted to focus on Belgian UFO reports that are backed up with photographs, slides, films, or videos. Despite the fact that Belgium is one of Europe’s smaller countries, its ufological heritage can be regarded as a micro-universe that comprises all the aspects found in UFO archives from other parts of the world. By selecting a subset of reports from one country, we ensure that the local interactions that can influence the reporting process (like press coverage and the location of popular UFO groups) are not neglected.
Not all collected images show classic saucer-shaped objects. A great many contain little more than fuzzy dark- or light-colored blobs that may or may not relate to an actual visual sighting, not necessarily anything strange. The types of UFO reports we have studied are of a great variety. As such, our case evaluations can be extrapolated to similar scenarios encountered from other countries. In this way, we hope our study will benefit current and future researchers with their own analyses of UFO photos and videos.
The cases that are discussed in the present monograph are those that are included in FOTOCAT, a database developed by one of the authors (Ballester Olmos, 2017). FOTOCAT comprises over 12,000 worldwide imaged UFO sightings. As of August 2017, it listed 242 cases for Belgium dating from between 1950 and 2005. We have spread them over two volumes. 2005 is the end year of the catalog. From that year on, the number of UFO photos and videos skyrocketed due to the rise of digital imaging that made the taking and distributing of images easier than ever. A mere look at the number of photographically-substantiated UFO reports from after 2005— a list of Belgian UFO photo cases from between 2007 and 2017 will be published in an appendix to Volume 2—testifies to this.
This monograph is part of the FOTOCAT Report series, which, since 2004, focuses on exploiting the FOTOCAT database in three different ways: reports by year (Ballester Olmos, 2008), by geography (Ballester Olmos, 2006; Ballester Olmos and Brænne, 2008; Ballester Olmos, 2010; Ballester Olmos et al, 2012), and by type of subject photographed (Ballester Olmos and Shough, 2011).
Belgian UFO groups that have been in the business of collecting UFO reports since the 1960s and 70s were willing to collaborate with our project. Without their help our work would have been severely handicapped. Private investigators also freely cooperated. When the only source was a news- paper article, the authors tried to locate the best possible prints through library searches. In several instances we tracked down the photo- and videographers themselves and asked them to provide a current position statement on the images they had taken. In cases where complex visual information was encountered, the authors relied upon international experts in image evaluation for a professional assessment.
Besides to painting the evolution of the phenomenon and weighing the evidence, the authors probed the case material for any anomaly that could hint at a phenomenon not yet fully understood by science. In a similar vein, we paid attention to photos of eccentric meteorological phenomena that ended up in the Belgian UFO archives.
The present volume is divided into two parts. Part 1 is the main catalog in which all known reports are brought together chronologically. Part 2 reviews the ensemble of reports and provides statistics and conclusions.
Projects like these are never exhaustive and complete. For that reason, the authors welcome any new cases and/or additional information regarding already included reports.